A true Ozark icon: the Hillbilly

Controversy over viewing the Ozarks as a refuge of degenerate primitives has a long history. This symbol of profound rusticity upset promoters and businessmen like John Woodruff, but defenders of the premodern Ozarks rushed to defend even the stereotypical hillbilly. 

On March 27, 1934, The Springfield Leader and Press reprinted highlights of the disastrous meeting of the Springfield Folk Festival advisory committee with Chamber of Commerce leadership. 

Chalk figurine. To the relief of Springfield’s Chamber of Commerce, there are few souvenirs like this. Most are marked Branson. Hillbillies are a hybrid of early folk studies’ version of pioneer life and pop culture’s simplifications. Self-satisfied rurals with no money, credit, or prospects are anathema to the business community.  In every possible way, the hillbilly is a potent symbol of anti-modernity. (Taken from James Fork of the White: Transformation of an Ozark River, now on sale for $17.50, half-price, postage paid, at www.beautifulozarks.com.)

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